13 July 2022

When it comes to COVID, it's now every person for themselves

| Zoya Patel
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Discarded mask

COVID might not have moved on but it seems we have moved on from COVID. Photo: File.

It’s been a strange journey through COVID-land this year.

After the regimented approach to stopping the spread in 2020-2021, this year feels like a sort of wild west, every person for themselves scenario, where we’ve suddenly been left to our own devices to manage our health.

But as I face the prospect of having COVID for the second time this year (I just took my PCR moments before sitting down to write this column, after my dad tested positive a few days after I had dinner with him), I’m feeling a bit disgruntled by the lack of support or advice to follow.

For example, while waiting for my test result, do I isolate and let people know, or go about my business and hope for the best?

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Yeah, there’s a vague directive to ‘minimise your activities’ if you’ve had a close contact, but the language is very broad, and realistically, there are far fewer allowances being made by workplaces for people to flexibly work from home or manage their affairs remotely, so it isn’t a straightforward decision for many.

As we all circulate through society with no contact tracing or mask mandates, and daily case numbers continue to stay over 1000, the likelihood of exposure is very high, but we’re just expected to ignore the risk as if the fundamental impact of the virus has changed alongside our attitudes to it.

My mother has a significantly compromised immune system, and in taking her to get a PCR, I was trying to answer her questions about what she should do next, who she should tell about her exposure, and what the rules were.

I realised that the best I could do was advise her to take every precaution for herself and hope for the best – which is what we all have to do now.

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So I guess we’re at the point in the pandemic where, even as the virus runs rampant around us, we need to be making individual assessments of our own risk of infection, risk of spreading the virus, and how we want to safeguard our health because we can’t expect direction from government to be in the best interests of public health. Instead, governments are prioritising the best interests of our economic recovery, balanced against health impacts.

And I’m not arguing with that – the economy is obviously very important. People’s good health is quickly diminished by economic strife and we’re still recovering from the long-term impacts of lockdowns, not to mention the additional effect of the war in Ukraine. People are struggling to pay their bills. It’s serious. I get it. There’s no simple solution that won’t significantly affect many of us.

But at the same time, it’s not as though COVID has suddenly changed to better suit our need for mobility to drive economic recovery. And suppose workplaces and other systems aren’t mandated to adjust to allow people to isolate/access support when they do in order to limit the spread of the virus. In that case, we’re just relying on individuals weighing up what’s going to be more detrimental to them – losing income or risking a negative impact from isolating as a close contact to limit the risk of spreading the virus, or having COVID and passing it on because they aren’t able to limit their movements without risking their jobs.

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I’ve noticed a sort of impatience seeping through society towards people who are still strictly following hygiene and social distancing measures. I’ve seen a few eye rolls at people wearing masks in public, reports from friends of their bosses being annoyed at their requests to work from home after they’ve been exposed to the virus, and narky comments between people about so-and-so refusing to come to a crowded event or a wedding etc. Yet we’ve got higher case numbers than ever in the ACT, and people are dying and being hospitalised.

The inconsistency is hard to wrap my head around. Are we all officially on our own now when it comes to COVID? Is the whole-of-community response a thing of the past?

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Take responsibility for your own health and don’t force me to live by your beliefs. We used to live in a free society with freedom of choice and personal responsibility and I would like it to stay that way.

This is one of the rare occasions that I agree with Zoya.

Sometimes I feel like carrying a 1.5 metre long stick into shops to educate others what 1.5 metres looks like.

I hate wearing a mask but I would be happy for the mask mandate to be brought back in.

The Premiers and Territory leaders have demanded a National Cabinet meeting over rising Covid numbers. Albo has agreed.

Yet none of the State and Territory leaders have the gumption to introduce masks despite calls from medicinal experts. Maybe they are hoping Albo will make that call?

But Albo today has made the news claiming that casuals can work from home….and the Premiers are putting there hopes on him to save them and their hospitals from crisis!

The NSW Premier is in the news today saying that people shouldn’t have to isolate for 7 days after testing positive. I’m not sure how less isolation will reduce case numbers?

We are all at risk because none of our leaders are prepared to take medical advice.

Just mask up everyone! It’s not that hard.

CaptainSpiff8:36 pm 15 Jul 22

“We are all at risk”?

What exactly are you at risk of? Catching Covid and spending a few days at home?

HiddenDragon6:53 pm 14 Jul 22

Of most immediate concern is the refusal of the new federal government to continue the “pandemic leave disaster payment” –

https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/pandemic-leave-disaster-payment

The argument that it can’t be afforded because of the state of the federal budget is a bit hard to swallow when there is still room in that budget for high income tax cuts and for the extension of child care subsidies to very high income households – particularly when that argument is being made by a governing party which spends quite a lot of time bleating about the plight of casual workers. Chris Minns took a contrary position today – it will be interesting to see if any of the Labor Premiers follow his lead and get some movement on this issue.

The other issue which needs attention is the anti-viral drugs, which need to be administered quickly after diagnosis to be of benefit – current arrangements make the unrealistic assumption that anyone eligible for these drugs has quick and easy access to a GP.

Some of the comments which others have made suggest that a new info campaign on mask wearing would help – but in the meantime, anyone feeling pressure not to wear a mask should remember that, aside from the health benefits, a mask makes it so much easier to tell a hostile stranger to got forth and multiply, and just cover it with a cough……

A trillion dollars in debt, yeah plenty of money left to keep paying pandemic leave and increase government debt levels for future generations to have to pay back. Some people love spending other people’s money. The pandemic is going to be here for years to come, you can’t expect the government to pay out money they don’t actually have forever.

@HiddenDragon
At the time the tax cuts were legislated, the government wedged the opposition into agreeing to them (you may recall the jibes about opposing tax cuts for ‘working mums and dads’) – rightly or wrongly it was a done as a bipartisan deal.

Personally I agree with the continuation of the payment – it makes sense from a community health perspective to provide an incentive for people infected with COVID to isolate rather than, of necessity, go to work..

Perhaps if the Opposition Leader, with his new marketing strategy, agreed to underwrite the continuation of the “pandemic leave disaster payment” by promising not to use it against the government, then Albanese may feel more comfortable with further debt.

However, the irony that the party “of profligate spending”, is being chastised for being frugal by the ‘economic masters’ party, who left a $1 trillion dollar debt and campaigned that it (the debt) would only get worse under a Labor government – yet they are now calling on the new government to continue to take us into further debt.

I’ll bet the shock jocks are warming up their tonsils in preparation for their frenzied attack on a government that is doing nothing to reduce the enormous burden which future generations will have to bear.

Except every dollar of my taxes that goes toward running COVID wards and ICUs is me caring. That is the extend that others be made to sacrifice for the unhealthy and elderly in society – through the public health system. Was this ever difference preCovid? The problem with such a system is there is not incentive for those with poor health to change their situation, you can almost say we are subsidising the obese to stay in hospital. Introduce taxes on junk food, increasing Medicare levies and insurance premiums of the overweight will vastly improve outcomes across the public health system.

It’s really telling that this has dragged on for so long with over 98% vaccine coverage and variants that are evolving to be increasingly milder that we are so worried about a virus still. Spanish flu was over in 2 years, it’s about time we got on with our lives.

Interesting taxation philosophy you have there, Sam Oak.

You begrudge taxes going to public health, specifically COVID wards and ICU, which arguably is of benefit to the community – which is actually what I thought the purpose of taxation to be.

So where do you stand on the annual “suck on the public teat” by an estimated 60% of property investors, who take a tax handout for their negatively geared properties? In many cases, the public purse is funding the purchase of that investor’s property(ies) where they are actually paying down the principle on their loan or just giving them a handout for those who have (a luxury not afforded to ordinary home buyers) an interest only loan. There is no incentive for these people to either pay off their loan or positively gear their properties while they gat a free ride from the government, is there?

JS your ludicrous statement about negative gearing is completely irrelevant. As previously proven, it’s a tax minimisation strategy that reduces the exorbitant costs of rental properties and INCREASES the supply of rental properties for young families to live in before they are able to buy their own home or ready to do so. Has nothing to do with taking self-responsibility in the age of covid where 98% of people are fully vaccinated.

Yeah, I figured you’d come back with an “I’m doing my civic duty” reponse, because hypocrisy is one thing we can always rely on from you, Sam Oak.

It’s ok for you to suck on the public teat – because that’s you exercising you right to minimise your tax obligation through ‘tax minimisation’ – which is a convenient phrase for avoiding paying your fair share of tax. Yet someone who is exercising their right to access the public health system is guilty of ‘poor health’ and not incentivised to change their situation.

It must be wonderful to be such a perfect citizen – providing affordable rental accommodation to the great unwashed and all you ask in return is a little consideration from the ATO. Now if only those great unwashed would stop getting sick, your perfect world would be complete.

Yes,
We have moved to a different phase of the Pandemic and surprisingly the government is allowing greater responsibility for individuals to manage their own risks and health.

“but we’re just expected to ignore the risk as if the fundamental impact of the virus has changed alongside our attitudes to it.”

I think this is the core of the article though. The fundamental impact of the virus has changed from when we were a year ago with lockdowns and heavy public health controls.

We are now almost universally vaccinated, with high boosting rates. We have high and increasing rates of natural immunity due to how many people have been infected.

This doesn’t mean that the virus has no impact but that overall the risk levels have been reduced.

And we need to understand that we can’t go back to relying on big daddy government to control our lives, we need to live with the risk just like we do with every other risk we comfortably accept daily.

This is rubbish. As the virus evolves the vaccines become less and less effective. Same for immunity from having had it previously.

Bussie,
No you are wrong.

As the virus evolves, true the vaccines become less effective, mainly in controlling onwards transmission. But they have so far proven still to be effective against serious disease and death. The vaccines will also “evolve” over time, the exact same way the flu vaccine does every year.

And despite your claims, natural immunity is increasing. Once again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get or transmit Covid again, it means that the impacts of having the virus are reduced as our immune systems get better at recognising and fighting the virus and its future variants.

Chewy, 98% of the population is fully vaccinated. Are you saying if you don’t get your booster every 3 months you are not protected from “serious disease or death”? The article is about whether we should be getting on with our lives right now – in a scenario of 98% coverage with the remainder completely healthy and high probably of natural exposure already. So is the 98% already protected or not or do we really need perpetual boosters to ward of the bogeyman as science will lead to to believe?

Sam Oak,
“Are you saying if you don’t get your booster every 3 months you are not protected from “serious disease or death”?”

No, that isn’t what I’m saying.

The problem is people thinking there was something that could be done that would make it all go away. It was obvious as far back as early 2020 that there was never any chance of driving this virus to extinction. Respiratory viruses are very hard to control, and it has virtually nothing in common with the one or two viruses we’ve managed to make extinct. Believing that the holy grail of a sterilising vaccine would be found in year was always a fantasy, given how long one had been looked for for viruses that have been with us longer. If you have a problem with any of that, then your complaint should be with the US and Chinese governments who think funding collecting and enhancing viruses to be more virulent is a good idea, especially as there are leaks from level 4 labs all the time.

That being the case, it was always going to be the eventuality that this virus would be with us forever, and the question was how best to get to treating it the way we treat other very nasty respiratory viruses like influenza or RSV. The absolute worst thing to do is what we did: blow all public good will on ineffectual measures that at best delayed infections among those least likely to be seriously at risk, while doing nothing for those most at risk because the low wage “essential” workers who look after them still had to work 3 jobs to make ends meet. All at the expense of the global economy that will cause food shortages, financial hardship and political instability for at least the next decade.

CaptainSpiff10:05 am 14 Jul 22

Amazing that after all the harm Covid policies have done, there are still people clamoring for more.

In many countries there are no Covid restrictions at all – no quarantining, no testing, nothing. And guess what. They’re doing better than we are.

Could you provide evidence for this ?

CaptainSpiff7:51 pm 14 Jul 22

Norway for example. smarttraveller.com.au’s page on Norway states:

“Domestic COVID-19 restrictions have also been lifted and replaced with recommendations if you feel unwell.”

If you catch Covid in Norway, nobody cares. Stay home as you feel appropriate, as you would for a flu. That’s been their policy since February. Sweden is similar. Iceland, UK, etc.

Australia is an outlier with its mandatory isolation policies.

Henny Penny still thinks the sky is going to fall.

… while others bury their head in the sand to avoid facing reality.

“In 2022 so far, 8088 people have died. In 2020 it was just 909 and in 2021 it was 1103.
We are running at 15 times the death rate as we were in 2020 and 2021. “

I’d say she has a point.

Yeah. At massive economic, social and political cost, which we will be paying for for decades, we have shifted deaths that would have occurred in 2020 to 2022. Well done team.

How fascinating, TheSilver, that you appear to think you are right.

I await the researched evidence for any of it, although the second part is so confused I am not sure where you would start.

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